Exploring the Calgary Stampede doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, it can cost you very little if you do a bit of planning ahead to make your budget work. While there are many top-tier experiences to be had at the event, there are plenty of ways for the cost-conscious Stampede attendee to enjoy The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth without breaking the bank. So dust off those cowboy boots, practice screaming Yahoo!, and follow these tips to get the most bang for your buck at The Calgary Stampede.
Budget-friendly ways to enjoy the Calgary Stampede
Budget-friendly ways to enjoy the Calgary Stampede
Stampede Savings: Park Admission
Paying for admission to The Calgary Stampede can get pretty pricy for families and large groups. But if you’re able to pick a date ahead of time, you can enjoy free gate admission on special value days like Suncor Family Day, TC Energy Community Day and BMO Kids Day.
Sneak-a-Peek night is also a great way to get in on the cheap with discounted admission (plus you get to enjoy the midway rides and games before the Stampede even officially begins).
If you need a little more flexibility, Calgary Stampede often features deals on their website for other ways to save on gate admission.
Stampede Savings: Eats & Treats
Bringing your own food or drink to the Stampede is the best way to visit on a budget. Having a refillable water bottle on hand lets you stay hydrated on those hot summer days, while having your own stash of granola bars and sandwiches means you won’t get hungry.
But like most folks, the food at Stampede is one of the most tempting things to buy as the mouth-watering aromas permeate the entire grounds. For the most affordable food options, head on over to Weadickville, home to vintage storefronts and delicious eats at special value prices. You’ll find a little bit of everything from hot dogs to ice cream to on-the-go snacks. If you're tempted to sample some unique Midway flavours, portion sizes are typically large enough to share.
Must-eat: If you’re going to spend money on just one midway food item, I recommend the best mini donuts from the Those Little Donut stands. They only come around once a year during Stampede so are a must-have when I visit.
Stampede Savings: Music & Entertainment
What would a western festival be without a little music!? The Calgary Stampede sets up marquee daily concerts that are free with your gate admission. For anything from Top-40 to rising stars, head to the Coca-Cola Stage, which has showcased big-name acts like Ben Harper, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sheryl Crow, and Nelly Furtado in previous years.
For country music lovers, Nashville North is where you’ll want to kick up your heels to see boot-stomping acts, with previous superstars headlining the stage including Doc Walker, Johnny Reid, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
And it wouldn’t be Stampede without a visit to see the Stampede Showband perform a medley of hits on the steps of the Saddledome each day.
Stampede Savings: Animals & Agriculture
Nestled in the urban centre of Calgary, it can be easy to forget about the Stampede’s roots as an exhibition for Alberta’s rich and storied agricultural background. Experience and interact with animals and agriculture through a variety of free demonstrations, western events, and agricultural programming.
At the Northern Lights arena, see the animals in action at the miniature horse and miniature donkey shows, revel in the skills of the traditional blacksmith competition and enjoy the vintage tractor pull. Further in the agriculture buildings you can learn all about where your food comes from, meet all sorts of country critters, and see the giant draft horses that helped shape the foundation of the west. There are also plenty of western competitions to cheer on at the Nutrien Western Event Centre such as the team cattle penning championships and the heavy horse pull competition.
Must-see: My most beloved animal moments are seeing the mama pig and all her little piglets on-site and watching the World Stock Dog competition herding sheep into an enclosure. It’s like Babe all over!
Stampede Savings: Shopping & Shows
The free shows at Calgary Stampede are great fun for all eventgoers from kids to grandparents and everyone in between. The Dog Bowl shows off doggy tricks from rescue canines that go far beyond sit and stay. Watch these pups jump, run and play their way through a variety of hoops and stunts.
For even more thrills, head out to the Monster Energy Compound to see world-class motocross athletes soar to new heights at this rip-roaring show. Shooting flames and revved up engines will get your heart racing as you watch the motorcycles fly through the air while doing some impressive tricks.
Once you’re ready to slow down from the action, head to the Calgary Stampede Market or Lammle’s Western Wear locations to do some shopping for unique local crafts, home decor, or a great pair of boots and a cowboy hat to really get into the Stampede Spirit.
Must-have: A Stampede souvenir! Small trinkets like a cowbell or bandana can be an inexpensive memento to remember the Calgary Stampede by.
Stampede Savings: Park Attractions
Make your way down to the Elbow River Camp to experience Indigenous traditions and cultures firsthand. Visit the many First Nations tipis on-site – on the outside you’ll find unique designs and markings, inside you’ll find beadwork, buckskin outfits and other artifacts on display.
Beat the heat inside the Western Oasis. This feature destination showcases western arts and culture. Enjoy the art and photographs from North American artists – plus there’s a wine garden to partake in too.
Must-do: If you decide to go for one ride on the midway, I suggest the WestJet Skyride as it takes you across most of Stampede Park and makes for some great photo-ops. Make it a one-way trip to save on ride tickets.
As you can see, there are plenty of attractions, exhibits and shows to visit at the Calgary Stampede – without having to spend a lot either. There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy at the Stampede grounds. Be flexible, plan ahead and get ready to enjoy 10 of the best days that Calgary has to offer.